Houseplants brighten up almost any indoor space. Attractive and practical, many even filter the air. Although light is the most important requirement when it comes to growing indoor plants, some species will thrive even in lowlight conditions. In fact, many plants will not only grow in low light, but also require very little watering.
The cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior) earns its common nickname from the fact that it is extremely hardy and will even thrive when neglected. This plant is desirable not only for its drought-tolerance and ability to grow in lowlight conditions, but for its long, broad, dark-green leaves. Some cultivars feature white streaks or spots on the leaves. Aglaonemas are also known to be drought-tolerant and will grow in low light. Also called Chinese evergreens, they are notable for their heavily variegated, attractive leaves.
Aloe plants are known for their thick, succulent leaves. These plants grow well in low light conditions and can tolerate periods of drought. Aloe barbadensis, or Aloe vera, is most commonly grown for its sap, which has medicinal properties. Jade plants (Crassula argentea) have small, round, succulent leaves and will grow in low light conditions, as well as requiring very little water. In fact, they are susceptible to overwatering, so less is more when it comes to these plants.
Snake plants are prized for their distinctive, vertically-growing foliage. These succulents feature striped leaves that grow almost straight up out of the pot, ending with a sharp point. The shape of the leaves also explains the plant's other common name, "Mother-in-law Tongue." The plant will thrive even in very little water or light, according to the University of Illinois Extension's website. Spathiphyllum plants feature "flowers" that are really modified leaves shaped somewhat like a cup. Also called peace lilies, they do best in low light, as too much sunlight can burn the leaves. They need only moderate amounts of water and can tolerate brief periods of drought.
A danger with drought-tolerant plants is overwatering, according to the University of Florida's Extension website. In fact, it's better to err on the side of less water, as the top mistake home gardeners make with indoor plants is watering too often. And while many of the above plants will grow in very little light, they do need at least some light to thrive. If your plant is growing spindly, leggy or has poor leaf growth, it probably needs a bit more light.
- University of Florida Extension; Hassle-Free Houseplants; Lynn Barber
- University of Vermont Extension; Low Light Houseplants; Dr. Leonard Perry
- University of Illinois Extension: Houseplants for Low Light
- The Seattle Times; Houseplants You Might Not Kill; Annie Flanzraich; January 2008
- Union County College; Cast-Iron Plant; Dr. T. Ombrello